Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. The prayer is an acrostic, made up of twenty-two stanzas, each eight lines long (22 x 8 = 176 verses). Eight different terms for God’s law are used throughout the prayer, and every line uses at least one of them. Following the order of the twenty-two letter Hebrew alphabet, each line of every stanza begins with one letter from the alphabet.
Think of the psalm as a quilt of letters. This poet uses every letter of that ancient alphabet to weave a tapestry of praise for God’s Torah. This creates a framework that forces the writer to think beyond their normal categories and experiences. In today’s passage we read the stanzas for the seventh and eighth letters—zayin and heth.
These stanzas touch on a theme repeated throughout this psalm: In God’s word we find the hopeful promises of God. This reminds me of Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist missionary from the United States, who wrote, “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
When you have problems picturing what you are looking for—imagining a future beyond the horizon—changing the framework for how you express yourself helps. The mystic Cynthia Bourgeault talks about how molding clay speaks in ways beyond words, similar to the way painting or drawing can speak in a non-verbal, though tangible fashion. Children who have difficulty finding words for their fears or hopes may draw their feelings more easily.
Creating a new framework to channel your thoughts and expressions will open up a new avenue of insight and just might allow you to see that future.
When was the last time you prayed in a different manner—walking a labyrinth, repeating words from a prayer book, trying lectio divina? What is stopping you from trying that now?
Lord, speak to all my senses, that I might smell, see, feel, taste, or hear you in a new way. Amen.